The Boston Bruins have already lost two defensemen during the 2021 NHL offseason and free agency doesn't even begin until next Wednesday.
Veteran defenseman Kevan Miller announced his retirement last week. It wasn't a huge surprise given the injuries Miller has dealt with over the last three years. The Bruins also lost defenseman Jeremy Lauzon on Wednesday night when the Seattle Kraken selected him in the expansion draft.
In a Zoom call with reporters Thursday morning, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney admitted the team will try hard over the summer to address its weaknesses on the blue line.
"We have to identify that we have a couple holes and gaps to fill. We addressed the long-term future of Brandon (Carlo) and happy to have him back in the fold as an important part of our defense," Sweeney said.
"We have to address another need, one if not two from a depth perspective, and also handling heavy minutes in all situations. We're going to try to be aggressive on that front and see if we can address the need."
The Bruins desperately need another top-four defenseman who can log 20-plus minutes per game, consistently play against the opponents' top-six forwards and also contribute to special teams.
These players obviously are hard to acquire, but the B's do have some options.
Free agency is one area to find this player. Ryan Suter is among the best defensemen available and Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wrote earlier this week that there's "lots of expectation Boston going hard for Ryan Suter."
Suter would be an excellent addition to the Bruins blue line, but you can bet plenty of teams will have interest in signing him.
The trade market is always an option, too. Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm fits the mold of what the Bruins need on the back end as an excellent two-way player. He is entering the final year of his contract.
The Bruins also need to determine how far they want to go toward re-signing Mike Reilly. The 28-year-old defenseman was acquired by the Bruins in a deal with the Ottawa Senators before the April 12 trade deadline. Sweeney admitted Thursday he's had "constant communication" with Reilly's camp but the two sides haven't found the finish line yet.
Reilly was a good fit in Boston, but even if he returns, the team would still need to acquire a better top-four defenseman.